Nephtyid worm 

Nephtys australiensis Fauchald, 1965

View scientific description and taxonomy

Scientific Details

Family level description.
Nephtyidae are active predators with very muscular body that is distinctly rectangular in cross-section with corners formed by parapodial lobes and often long chaetae. The prostomium has the form of a short truncate triangle with 4 small terminal appendages (1 pair of antennae, 1 pair of palps). The pharynx is eversible and typically has long papillae in rows and in a terminal ring; it lacks jaws or hard parts. A curved interramal cirrus occupies the space between dorsal and ventral lobes of the parapodia (feet).

Species level technical description.
Prostomium with antennae and palps; Not strongly produced anteriorly; lacking eyespots. Eyespots absent from anterior chaetigers. Prostomium slightly longer than wide; palps and antennae of similar length. Pharynx with bifid terminal papillae present, 20 papillae; Subterminal papillae present; Enlarged median subdistal dorsal papilla present. Pharynx with 22 rows of subdistal papillae, each row made up of 6-9 papillae. Verrucae present; throughout entire basal region of pharynx. Dorsal cirri present from chaetiger 2. Broad, foliaceous. Dorsal interramal cirri absent, from chaetiger 4, cirriform, roughly circular in cross-section, curve outward initially. Dorsal interramal cirrus with basal digitiform process (reduced to an indistinct bump), chaetigers 10-20 (at least). Ventral interramal cirri absent. Interramal cirrus present from chaetigers 4 to about 50, absent thereafter; interramal cirrus almost completely fills interramal space on anterior chaetigers. Specialised dentate chaetae absent from notopodium of chaetiger 1. Barred chaetae present in preacicular fascicles. Lyrate chaetae absent. Spinose post-acicular chaetae present. Spinulose post-acicular chaetae present. Capillary chaetae present.



General Description

In members of this genus the interramal cirri curve outward initially; lyrate chaetae are absent. Other species, and genera, of Nephtyidae occur in our region, but the two commonest species in Port Phillip Bay are Nephtys australiensis (with 20 terminal papillae on the pharynx and one enlarged midian papilla, interramal cirri from chaetiger 5) and Nephtys inornata (with 18 terminal papillae on the pharynx, no enlarged midian papilla, interramal cirri from chaetiger 4). Body up to about 5 cm long.


Other species, and genera, of Nephtyidae occur in the Victorian region, but the two commonest species in Port Phillip Bay are Nephtys australiensis and Nephtys inornata. Both species are active predators which live in soft sandy sediments; they do not form permanent burrows. Nephtys australiensis is also found in estuarine areas, often in association with the nereidid polychaete Australonereis ehlersi.


Port Phillip Bay and other similar coastal habitats, inshore and continental shelf.

Soft substrates

Distribution guide

South-eastern Australia.

Species Group

Worms Nephtyid worms


Shore (0-1 m)
Shallow (1-30 m)

Water Column

On or near sea floor

Max Size

5 cm



Commercial Species


Global Dispersal

Native to Australia

Species Code

MoV 1163


Conservation Status

  • DSE Advisory List : Not listed
  • EPBC Act 1999 : Not listed
  • IUCN Red List : Not listed


article author Wilson, R.

Robin Wilson is a Senior Curator of marine invertebrates at Museum Victoria.


Cite this page as:
Wilson, R., 2011, Nephtyid worm, Nephtys australiensis, in Taxonomic Toolkit for marine life of Port Phillip Bay, Museum Victoria, accessed 21 Jun 2024,

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